Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Easterly on Growth, Poverty & Aid

Nerd Alert!

Another podcast that I enjoy is Russ Roberts's EconTalk, which comes out weekly, and has done so since at least 2007. Roberts takes about 1 hour to discuss a topic of interest with economists, political scientists, and others with similar interests about topics in economics and public affairs. The discussion led by Roberts is always interesting, and even when Roberts disagrees with the perspective or contention offered by his guest, he doesn't get on a high horse or simply toot his own horn. He lets his guest talk. Roberts is a part of the blog-crazy economics department at George Mason University, which, I must say, as a group, probably does more to promote and stimulate thinking about economics and public affairs than any other group that I know. For instance, Tyler Cowan and Alex Tarrock's Marginal Revolution comes out of GMU.

Now the podcast: William Easterly of NYU is a major critic of the traditional development aid regime that includes the IMF, the World Bank, Jeffrey Sachs, Bono, and so on. Easterly worked at the World Bank, so he's seen things from the inside. His main contention: aid hasn't worked for several reasons. These reasons include a lack of feedback (market mechanism) to measure success and need; lack of standards, institutions and culture for economic development in the recipient countries; bureaucratic imperatives of the providers that trump the needs of recipients; and corruption among governments receiving or administering aid. Easterly doesn't want to cut billions loose just to fend for themselves or starve. He does recognize gains. He believes, however, that small scale, direct giving (to projects and not necessarily governments) works best.

It's a thought-provoking discussion, and I know that his books have attracted a lot of interest because they attack the reigning paradigm (of which Jeff Sachs is seen as the current intellectual champion). Having read Sachs, this provides another important perspective. The problems are real, and how we address them can prove a matter of life and death, not to mention poverty, disease, and limited life for millions around the world.

1 comment:

middleson said...

good tips on the podcasts & blogs, i'll have to add them to my media content feed. thanks!